School sticks to its fence plan - and faces criticism from councillors and residents

St. Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Anderton
St. Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Anderton

A school in Chorley has been given the go-ahead to erect a near 8ft-high fence around its boundary – but has been criticised for failing to consult nearby residents over the controversial plan.

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary in Anderton first sought permission for the 2.4 metre structure in January, but Chorley Council deferred its decision in the hope that a compromise could be reached with locals who said they would feel as though they were “living in a cage”.

However, an unchanged plan was put back before the borough’s development control committee after members heard that the school – and the Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool which is responsible for its grounds – had shown “no willingness” to amend the proposal.

The black, wide mesh fence will be set back from the edge of the school grounds, creating a narrow corridor to the rear of properties on Lees Road and Ashfield Road. The school has pledged to take on responsibility for the maintenance of the strip of land – but residents have previously said the area will attract anti-social behaviour.

“We are extremely disappointed in the total lack of communication and lack of concern for residents and feel that an agreeable solution could have been reached with a simple meeting,” Malcolm Cook, one of the school’s neighbours, told Chorley Council’s development control committee.

He also called for the Archdiocese to make public its policy on school perimeter fencing after it emerged last month that a height of 2.4 metres was not mandatory.

“This was just a guideline from the Archdiocese which can be altered depending on the location [of the school],” Adlington and Anderton ward councillor Peter Wilson said.

“Once we knew that, the key thing was to try to enter a dialogue about the proposal – but that hasn’t taken place. I have had a conversation with the school and they want to plough on – I think that’s unfortunate and regrettable.

“Nobody is saying the school shouldn’t be safeguarded and given the protection it needs – of course it should. But there is a need to balance that with the concerns from neighbouring properties,” Coun Wilson added.

Council officers recommended that the application be approved as the fence design ensured that there would be no “overbearing impact” on nearby residents. The school would also have been free to erect a 2 metre-high barrier of any description without requesting planning permission.

Committee member, Aaron Beaver, condemned a "refusal to speak to with locals".

"This smacks of Brexit - it keeps coming back and nothing ever changes," he added.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary and the Archdiocese of Liverpool were approached for comment after committee members voted by a majority to allow the school’s preferred fence.

Speaking in January, after councillors first considered the application, St. Joseph’s headteacher, Fiona Brownsey, said pupil safety had to be her priority.

“We have a safeguarding policy which we have to adhere to in order to make the school as safe as possible. But we live as part of a community and want to maintain good relationships with our neighbours,” she said.